Popular Diets Part 1: All About Paleo
"The theory behind this diet is that the human body... is genetically mismatched to the modern diet, that emerged from modern day agriculture and farming practices."
There are so many diet and food options out there. Which is best? How do you keep track of what’s real, and what’s just hype? What if we could take the best of all the popular diets, and build our own super diet?
In Part 1 of her series on the pros and cons of popular diets, Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD holistic nutritionist, is taking an unbiased look at the paleo diet. We'll discuss what the diet is, what it entails, its health benefits, as well as simple DIY recipes for great paleo-friendly foods.
- 2.42: What is the paleo diet?
- 4:23: Purpose of the paleo diet.
- 8.15: Foods to avoid.
- 11:04: Paleo meal plan sample.
- 13.00: Common misconceptions about the paleo.
- 14.13: Associated health benefits
- 22.06: How does paleo differ from other common diets?
- 25.15: Paleo Recipe.
- 31:55: Wrapping it Up.
Popular Diets Today
There are a ton of popular diets out there, such as:
- Low Carb.
- High Fat.
Today, we’re looking at paleo… the pros, cons, health benefits, and more.
What is the Paleo Diet?
The paleo diet is a diet plan devised based on the foods similar to what might have been eaten during the Paelolithic Era, so it's sort of like a cave man's diet.
A paleo diet typically includes whole food sources that in the past could be obtained by hunting and gathering, like:
- Meats and fish
- Nuts and seeds.
A paleo diet limits foods that became common when farming emerged about 10,000 years ago including:
- Dairy Products
Purpose of the Paleo Diet
The purpose of the paleo diet is to return back to a way of eating that’s more like what our ancestors ate. The theory behind this diet is that the human body, in its current form, is genetically mismatched to the modern diet, that emerged from modern day agriculture and farming practices. This idea is known as the discordance hypothesis. Although it’s impossible to know exactly what our ancestors ate in different parts of the world, we do know that their diet consisted of whole foods that they caught, raised, grew, or found themselves. That was a time before the processed foods and the fast foods and the DoorDashes.
By following a whole food based diet and leading physically active lives of hunting and gathering, they had much lower rates of lifestyle diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease. While there are many different offshoots of and adaptations of the paleo diet, in general paleo diets follow a plan based on whole unprocessed paleo foods. They include:
- Grass-fed meats – Beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork
- Fish and seafood – Salmon, trout, haddock, shrimp, shellfish (wild caught, if available)
- Eggs – Free range, pasture or omega-3 enriched eggs
- Vegetables – Broccoli, kale, onions, carrots, beets, and more
- Fruits – Apples, bananas, oranges, pears, avocados, strawberries, blueberries
- Root vegetables – Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips
- Nuts and seeds – Almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, hazel nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds
- Healthy fats and oils – Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, walnut oil, avocado oil
- Salt and spices – Sea salt, turmeric, garlic, rosemary, herbs
Most of the diet is similar to the anti-inflammatory diet, for those familiar with it.
Foods to Avoid
The foods to avoid if you are a paleo eater are any foods that were developed after the onset of farming. They include:
- Sugar and high fructose corn syrup drinks such as soft drinks and fruit juices, table sugar, candies, pastries, ice creams
- Grains and flours including breads, pastas, wheat, spelt, rye, barley
- Legumes, beans and lentils, peas
- Dairy, especially low fat dairy. Some versions of paleo do include full-fat dairy like butter and cheese
- Vegetable oils including sunflower oil, soya bean oil, cottonseed, safflower oil, and others
- Trans fats found in margarine and various processed and packaged foods
- Artificial sweeteners — aspartame, sucralose, saccharin. Use natural sweeteners including raw honey, manuka honey, maple syrup instead.
- Highly processed foods — anything with additives and preservatives.
A general paleo guideline is simply: if it looks like it’s processed or made in a factory, then don’t eat it. Here’s a look at what you might eat on a typical day if you’re a paleo eater (note: this is informational. We don’t necessarily agree with all paleo recommendations).
Paleo Meal Plan Sample
- Lunch - Grilled chicken and salad, like romaine with carrots and cucumber walnuts and lemon juice dressing
- Dinner – Salmon, served with broccoli or mixed greens, avocados, onions, almond seeds, lemon dressing, strawberries for dessert
- Snacks – Orange, carrot sticks or celery sticks
Common Misconceptions about the Paleo Diet
The paleo diet isn’t a Flintstones diet. The common misconception about the paleo diet is that meats and fish are staples of the diet. However, they are not the only focus of the paleo diet. It recommends that you eat a 50/50 meat to plant caloric ratio. In other words, half of your plate would be plants, and the other half meat. However, considering the caloric density of meats and vegetables, we recommend a ratio of 75% plant-based and 25% animal-based foods. That’s a really good way to structure your plates.
Associated Health Benefits
A number of randomized clinical trials have compared the paleo diet to other eating plans. Overall, these trials suggest that a paleo diet may provide some real benefits compared to other diets. Some of these benefits include:
- Weight loss
- Improved glucose tolerance
- Better blood pressure
- Low triglyceride levels
- Stable blood glucose level
However, it is recommended that more research and trials on the benefits of paleo be carried out among larger groups of people for longer periods of time, in order to truly understand and determine its long-term, overall health benefits, as well as any possible risks.
Paleo diets emphasize the drinking of water, which is really important, especially if you have an active lifestyle.
It’s a clean diet without additives, preservatives or chemicals found in processed foods. People on this diet feel full over long periods of time, especially in between meals due to the higher intake of protein and fats. Protein in particular helps limit cravings, especially late night cravings, if you eat protein throughout the day.
There are also great anti-inflammatory benefits from the plant nutrients you get from the variety of fruits and vegetables and oils and nuts and seeds consumed in the paleo diet. In fact, other than a few things, like the emphasis on red meat and pork products, the paleo diet does limit many inflammatory foods, including processed meats, trans fats, and refined sugars. Plus, the paleo diet is rich in the best, natural, anti-inflammatory foods, including green leafy vegetables, salmon, healthy oils, and fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants. Too much inflammation in your body can increase the risk of so many problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, joint pain, and much more. Eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, particularly omega 3 fatty acids, helps protect against excess inflammation. An added support with a great curcumin supplement daily like Smarter Curcumin is going to help tremendously against inflammation, aches and pains, brain fog, GI issues, and other inflammation and free radical damage.
This can be summarized by our equation of health which is:
Less Inflammation In + More Inflammation Out = A Healthier You.
So, the paleo diet can play an important role in reducing inflammation. Studies have shown that highly processed foods and carbohydrates can promote whole body inflammation by increasing the number of free radicals in the body.
Compare the paleo diet with our modern, western diet which is loaded with sugars, trans fats, omega-6’s, and 9’s, and the benefits are obvious.
How Does Paleo Differ From Other Common Diets
The primary difference between the paleo diet and other healthy diets is the absence of whole grains and legumes in the paleo diet which are good sources of fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients. For this reason, people who are following the paleo diet will need to ensure they are getting the fiber and other nutrients from the plant-based sources in their diet. This is the one point on which we differ with paleo eaters.
Whole grains and legumes are not only healthy but they are also more generally affordable and accessible than foods such as grass-fed animals and organic fruits and vegetables. As a result, some people might find a paleo diet too expensive to maintain for an extended period of time.
The paleo diet generally suggests eating no more than three meals per day, but there are paleo friendly snacks that are simple and easily portable. These include:
- Baby carrots or celery
- Hard boiled eggs
- A piece of fruit
- A handful of nuts
- Sliced apples with nut butters or seed butters
There are also great, easy-to-make paleo snack recipes all over the Internet. Here are a few other great paleo recipes.
- Take your cauliflower and peel it into bite-sized florets
- Toss the florets in olive oil
- Bake and roast it in the oven for 25 minutes on 350.
- Sprinkle it with onion powder or sea salt garlic powder. You can also sprinkle it with turmeric
This is a fun, tasty, super-healthy snack for those of you who need a popcorn fix!
Avocado Deviled Eggs
- Boil some eggs
- Remove the yolk
- Mash up 1 avocado, cilantro, garlic salt with Himalayan salt, and pepper until it becomes evenly blended
- Scoop the mixture and insert them into your boiled eggs and serve
This is easy, healthy, and delicious. Bring it to a party!
Turkey and Romaine Lettuce
- Take roasted turkey (with no salt, no nitrates, no phosphates) and put it in a piece of romaine lettuce
- Put a bite of avocado and you are ready to go. It’s like little paleo friendly tacos!
Wrapping it up
Paleo diet is actually quite simple and has many positives and benefits. It is modeled after the diet hunters and gatherers were likely to have followed. While there is not one exact way to follow the paleo diet, there is a basic idea, which is to avoid processed foods and focus instead on healthy, whole foods. Paleo friendly foods include meat, fish, eggs, seeds, nuts, fruits and veggies along with healthy fats and oils, while avoiding processed foods including grains, dairy, and sugar. The diet includes grass-fed lean meats, and they recommend a 50/50 meat-plant caloric ratio. We believe that’s a little too high, and instead recommend a 75/25 plant-meat ratio. Users on this diet typically experience weight loss, lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels, and more stable blood sugar levels.
In addition, since the diet avoids simple carbohydrates, processed foods, and refined sugars, and includes fruits and vegetables and healthy oils loaded with antioxidants, the paleo diet is beneficial in reducing levels of inflammation in the body.
Other benefits of the paleo diet include eating clean, by avoiding artificial flavors and preservatives and toxins and chemicals found in processed foods, increased iron intake and feeling satiated or fuller for longer after eating.
Since the paleo diet also avoids whole grains, beans and legumes, you really need to make sure that you’re eating high fiber fruits and vegetables, to ensure that you’re getting enough fiber in your diet each day if you go paleo. Something that is a common byproduct of eating paleo is eating too much meat too quickly, which can result in constipation. To avoid this, make sure that you eat a lot of vegetables, paired up with the meats you eat.
Tune in for your next article, as we weigh the pros and cons of the Vegan diet!